As camera gimbals have grown in popularity, many folks take for granted how much strength it requires to hold a gimbal, even a lightweight mirrorless one, for an extended period of time. I’ll be the first to admit that I can’t fly my Varavon Birdycam at chest level for more than 1 minute without straining my arms and shoulders. Once I start shaking, my focus shifts away from the composition of the shot to my body endurance which is never an ideal situation. I bought a camera gimbal to create interesting, unique scenes, not to work out my upper body.
So I searched the internet for some gimbal stabilizing options and the cheapest one I found is the Came TV GS01 for $400. On the other side of the spectrum is the slick Ready Rig for $2,000. Both of these options are beyond my budget so I decided to make my own. While there are a few DIY tutorials on Gimbal Backpack Stabilizers, I thought Cheesycam’s DIY Gimbal Support Backpack and Modest Reaction’s riff were the best options out there. With a few key items from your local Home Depot and eBay, I’ll provide a step by step guide on how to make your very own DIY Gimbal Support Stabilizer for less than $100. You may already own a lot of these items so you may spend even less but the ingredients I’ll list are the best balance of cost, assembly time and performance.
The first item you will need is the backpack frame. A rigid frame, combined with heavy duty shoulder straps and waist support is the most important element to distributing the weight of the camera gimbal from your arms and shoulders to your entire torso. The best option I found is a U.S. Military MOLLE II system. MOLLE is a modular attachment system that’s been adopted by the US Army. Basically it’s built for troops to carry 100lbs of supplies for up to 25 miles so you know these things are built for serious situations. The frame is constructed from ABS plastic which are known for impact resistance and toughness and the shoulder straps and waistbelt are constructed of 1000 Denier Cordura and nylon threading which is mold and mildew resistant, water-repellant and the same material as the Ready Rig. Since it’s a modular system, you can also add a rucksack to the frame for additional supplies or you can paint it to add a touch of customization.
PRICE: $40 (shipped)
Next you will need 4 fiberglass tent poles that are 27″ long and 9.5mm in diameter with metal ferrules. The rods are used to soften the Y axis movements during walking shots to provide a more stable and less jittery image. I found these super affordable Coleman Fiberglass Tent Poles on eBay but they can easily be found at your local sporting goods or camping store. To secure the poles to the frame you’ll need a package of standard 8″ zip ties.
PRICE (4 Fiberglass Tent Poles): $15
PRICE (20 Zip Ties): $2.18
To connect the rods together you will need 100lb rated metal braided wire used for hanging heavy picture frames and mirrors. The wires are pulled through the rods and together they act like a crane to hoist the gimbal over your chest.
Next you will need 2 small washers and 2 150lb aluminum carabiners. These will be attached to each end of the metal braided wire.
PRICE (Washers): $3.14
PRICE (2 Carabiners): $1.96
To protect the exposed metal braided wire I bought these cable covers that are used for organizing computer cables. You’ll need 3/8″ for the metal wire and 1/2″ for the fiberglass rods. These are purely a cosmetic feature but I think they add a more polished look.
PRICE (3/8″ Tubing): $2.48
PRICE (1/2″ Tubing): $2.48
The adjustable straps are used to customize the height of the gimbal for framing a scene. I went with these heavy duty Husky Hang-Alls which are commonly used to hold tools, bikes and other heavy equipment. Since Husky has a great reputation for quality and are very common in almost every Home Depot store, this is a much more convenient solution than buying lashing straps and carabiners separately.
PRICE (2 Hang-Alls): $9.94
To attach the rig to the gimbal, I used standard 1-1/2″ key rings on the gimbal’s horizontal support secured by velcro straps.
PRICE (2 Key Rings): $1.94
PRICE (Velcro Straps): $3.74
STEP 1: ASSEMBLE THE BACKPACK
First you’ll need to assemble the Molle II frame to the shoulder straps and waist support. Since it isn’t very intuitive and there are no instructions that come with the package, it can be a little tricky to assemble. Fortunately I found this awesome tutorial that can walk you through the process. Be sure to follow the directions carefully as the rig’s structural integrity is centered on the location and firmness of the straps.
STEP 2: ASSEMBLE THE RODS
Next, assemble the rods by inserting one pole into another using the metal ferrules. You should now have 2 pairs, each one 54″ total length.
STEP 3: INSERT METAL WIRE & MEASURE
Then, take the metal braided wire and carefully push it through the first pair of poles using a needle nose plier. Be sure to do this slowly so you don’t bend the wire which will make it much harder to push through the pole. Once you get it through the end, let about 12″ of wire hang out of it.
STEP 4: SECURE CARABINERS & MEASURE
Next, using a pair of needle nose pliers, take the metal braided wire and wrap 2 tight loops around the small end of the aluminum carabiner then wrap it back around itself several times to secure the loop. Snip off any extra wire with a wire cutter and bend the end of the wire with the pliers to avoid any sharp points sticking out. Measure 12″, edge to edge, from the top of the pole to the end of the carabiner. This distance should be exact so if you accidentally tug on the wire, just re-measure and adjust.
STEP 5: SECURE WASHERS & MEASURE
You’ll want to secure the other end of the wire using the metal washer. Measure 6″ from edge of the pole and cut the wire. Next, measure 1″ from the edge of the pole and bend the wire at that point. Place the washer at that bend and wrap one tight loop around it using the needle nose pliers. Again, wrap it back around itself several times to secure the loop around the 1″ length of wire. Snip off any extra wire with a wire cutter and bend the end of the wire with the pliers to avoid any sharp points sticking out. Repeat Steps 3-5 for the second pair of poles.
STEP 6: SECURE RODS TO FRAME
Next, take an assembled pole and secure it to the left side of the Molle II frame by inserting it into the bottom two straps of the waist support. You may want to loosen these straps to get the pole in and tighten them to secure it. The edge of the pole should rest against the bottom plastic ridge with the metal braided wire and washer hanging off to the side. Then, secure the pole to the frame with the zip ties. I chose to secure the pole on every other strap opening all the way to the top. Be sure to have the zip tie ends facing inwards and tighten all of them evenly once the pole is fully attached. Make sure each zip tie is tight then snip off the ends using a wire cutter. Repeat this process for the right side of the Molle II frame.
STEP 7: ADD HUSKY HANG-ALLS
Add the Husky Hang-Alls to the poles by connecting it from the strap to the aluminum carabiner. The Husky carabiner should hang from the bottom and will be used to connect to the gimbal.
STEP 8: ADD FLEX TUBING
Next you’ll add the flex tubing. Uncoil the 3/8″ flex tubing and stretch it across the exposed metal braided wire to measure the distance. Cut the 3/8″ tubing and wrap it around the wire by using the slit in the middle. Repeat this for the other side. Next, take the 1/2″ tubing and stretch it across the top fiberglass pole. Again, measure the distance from the top of the Molle II frame to the end of the pole, cut it, and wrap it around. Repeat for the other side. In my opinion, this looks more aesthetically pleasing than exposed tent poles and picture wire.
STEP 9: ASSEMBLE KEY RINGS TO GIMBAL
Add the key ring to the end of the gimbal upper support plate near the handle and secure it using the velcro strap. Loop this a couple of times through the key ring as tight as possible to keep it secure. Repeat this with the other side.
STEP 10: TEST THE RIG WITH GIMBAL
Finally, put the Gimbal Support Stabilizer on and adjust the shoulder and waist support straps to a comfortable level. Everything should be tight but not uncomfortable or constricting. To attach the Gimbal Support Stabilizer to the camera gimbal, carefully bend down and maneuver yourself to a proper angle that makes it easy to attach the Husky carabiners to the key rings. Grip the handles on the gimbal, stand up and everything should feel stable and secure. You will have to adjust the Husky Hang-All straps to get the proper height but otherwise, everything should be good to go. With all of the weight now distributed across your torso there should be an immediate feeling of lightness with the gimbal. You’ll still have to move like a ballet dancer but with the ability to properly frame a shot and rehearse a move without getting tired, there will be a much deeper creative connection with the camera gimbal.
This is by far one of my favorite DIY projects ever. Although you’ll get a lot of funny looks and comments in public, it makes using a camera gimbal a breeze. I can literally hold it for over 20 minutes straight without fatigue. This gives me more time to block a shot and really think about the creative composition of the scene. I would totally encourage anyone who owns a gimbal to give this DIY project a shot. Hit me up in the comments if you have any questions and please share any ideas to make this DIY Gimbal Support Stabilizer even better. Thanks!